As a child, author Pamela Druckerman often envisioned adults as astronauts and scientists – people with highly-technical, labor-intensive careers and responsibilities. “Grownups had this kind of wisdom, insight and discernment, an ability to wrap their heads around social dynamics and conversations,” says Druckerman. “I guess I defined [adulthood] as anything vaguely confident that I was not able to do.”
Many people of a certain age would agree that embracing adulthood happens slowly rather than quickly. Druckerman first faced her middle-aged reality after living in Europe for almost 10 years. When first migrating to France, she noticed her French peers consistently dubbed her “mademoiselle,” an informal title given to young, unmarried women. Shortly after turning 40, Druckerman's “mademoiselle” moniker was replaced with “madame” - a term usually reserved for older women.
Druckerman was initially uneasy about being addressed as “madame” by waiters, baristas and homeless people calling to her on the street. Even though it became hard to ignore the newfound lines on her face, she didn’t feel different on the inside.
“What kind of transformation is this, and what really has changed? Have I changed on the inside, too?” Druckerman asked herself. “The world is treating me like a grownup now. I could see that I couldn’t get away with the same behaviors as a madame that I could as a mademoiselle.”
After accepting her “madame” fate, Druckerman slowly began to notice the transition from her youth to middle age. Her memoir, There Are No Grown Ups: A Mid-Life Coming of Age Story, explores the changes that accompany aging - both internal and external.
Young people spend their formative years constantly hitting milestones. Getting drivers’ licenses, graduating college and landing first jobs are some of the landmark events that make youth memorable. Young people often view the adults around them as their supporters and mentors. Druckerman says that as one ages, those mentors disappear and the roles begin to reverse. The students become the teacher, the children become the parents, and the young people become the old people.
“You’re not a prodigy of anything in your forties,” says Druckerman. “You’ve entered the time of life that you’ve been preparing for all these years.”
While working on her book, Druckerman realized there isn’t much academic study regarding middle age life. Life expectancies have increased exponentially over the last 100 years, and that major shift has led to a disparity in the number of stories and narratives about life as a middle-aged adult.
“I hadn’t read anything that really described the kind of constellation of experience that one goes through if one is somebody like me,” says Druckerman with a chuckle. “I really wanted to read that book, and in order to read that book, I had to go through the bother of writing that book!”
Druckerman says she feels more at ease with herself after completing No More Grown Ups. At one point, she locked herself in a hotel room for 10 days, trying to figure out the structure of her childhood in order to tell her story with accuracy. She says she’s grateful to have that story in her back pocket, and feels wiser for having written a book that so many of us can relate to.